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Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Ellery Dana, 6 June 1797

Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Ellery Dana

Philadelphia June 6t[h 1797]1

Blessed are the Peace makers, says [a Good] Book, for which you and I, entertain the highest respect and reverence. I quote this benidiction to reconcile you to the appointment of your Best Ffriend, as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the French Republick.2

An appointment which all true Friends to their Country, and real Americans will rejoice in out of 28 Senators, there were 22 approving voices, as the Yeas and Nays were taken. I commit no transgression in Communicating this to you. Two Senators were absent, & two have not been here this Session. amongst the Six, Massachusetts has the Misfortune to have one. my Situation forbids my expressions of indignation! The French Faction are not less insolent or less sparing of their abuse upon the President, than they were upon his Predcessor; but I can read Bache every morning with Cool contempt. I think this a Proof of Phylosphy. you too my dear Madam, must arm yourself with the same shield for you will find occation for the full exercise of it. But the Curse Causeless, shall not hurt us—3

You know well, that I can sympathize with you in all those trials which have call’d our dearest Friends, to the Post of Danger and difficulties;4 they have heretofore been fellow Laboures together in the arduous, and Perilious Conflict for Freedom and danger independance, having thrown of the Shackles, and shivered the fetters as of one dominering power,5 we must not now permit them to be forced upon us, by a more insolent and assuming Hands with pretentions less founded, aiming not only to wrest from us our Freedom and Independance, But our Religion also—6

The Prospect is truly allarming, and threatens but our Country [with] nothing less than the Subversion of all, which our [Friends] have Mutually aided each other in obtaining, and [whic]h we had good reason to Expect would be transmitted [a] fair inheritance to our Children.

As your Friend is again Calld upon by his Country to take an active part, in a Mission of a highly interesting and very important Nature, on the isssue of which is involved the Peace of our Country, I cannot permit a doubt to arrise respecting his acceptance of it. Mr Marshall who is joind with him supports a very fair and Honorable Character, and is sayd to be truly American, and to this Opinion, the Six Votes against both the Gentlemen, will be a standing Record.

Having been Whitness to your fortitude and Patriotism upon a more trying occation than the Present, as the Circumstances of our Country were then more distressing I flatter myself you will persevere in the sane line of Conduct, which led you then to Sacrifice, every personal Consideration to the Welfare of our Country—7

FC in Louisa Catharine Smith’s hand (Adams Papers). Dft (2, both Adams Papers). Text lost due to a torn manuscript has been supplied from the Dft dated 5 June.

1AA drafted this letter twice after Francis Dana’s 31 May nomination as special envoy to France but before his appointment on 5 June. An undated Dft, presumably the first of the two, is four pages in length and comprises a complete draft on the first and second pages and then a partial redrafting that begins on the fourth page and concludes on the third page. The second Dft, dated 5 June, is a single page. Meticulous at the start of the letter, AA paid close attention to her penmanship, clearly intending this to serve as the final copy. Halfway down the page, however, she began to cancel text. The FC, printed here, includes additional details regarding Dana’s appointment.

2The complete, undated Dft reads from this point forward: “I do not expect you will give him your thanks for this nomination, but My Dear Madam You will recollect that my Husband and yours have been fellow labourers in the Great Cause of Building up the goodly Fabrick which has become the envy of Nations, but which still requires able and skillfull Artist to shield and protect it from being sapped at Home, and overturned from abroad. he will not, he must not refuse his aid to the pilot when the Ship is threatned with a storm. it is in full confidence of his known, tried and long experienced attachment to his Country, and his pure American Sentiments that he is now calld to this important embassy and however painfull it may be to you to be again seperated, I hope you will reassume your former magnininity which supported you in times more perilious than the present, and under circumstances still more distressing to you as your Children were then all young.

“To the judge taking for granted that he will not refuse I have only to request that he will consider this house as his Home when he comes on here and if you would accompany him it would be an additional pleasure and satisfaction / to Your Friend / and Humble Servant / Abigail Adams.”

3A paraphrase of Proverbs, 26:2.

4In the undated Dft, AA redrafted the start of this paragraph, “As it personally respects you, I can sympathize in all your feelings, having had My full share of those trials” and referred to Elizabeth Ellery Dana and herself as “sister Sufferers” in the nation-building process.

5In the redrafted portion of the undated Dft, AA concluded this paragraph, “We must not submit to the Iron Rod of a more Insolent and assuming Hand.” The balance of this version mirrors the contents of the final three paragraphs of the FC. AA initially closed this version, “Be so good as to present both the Presidents and my Regards to the Judge With our request that he would consider this House as his Home,” but she emended it to read, “I presume the judge will lose no time in making his arrangments and that we shall have the pleasure of seeing him here previous to his Departure. if you would accompany him & consider this House as your Home during your stay it would give great pleasure to Your old and constant / Friend / A Adams.”

6In the Dft of 5 June this paragraph reads: “I know very well as it personally affects you, that You will feel much pain and anxiety at the prospect of being again seperated from Your Friend, having past through one tempestuous Season as fellow Laboures, and Friends, having weatherd the storm, it might have been expected that my Friend and yours might have enjoyd the Evening of Life in a calm, but no Man liveth for himself. the prospect now opening to us, requires the abilities, & firmness of the ablest and firmest Patriots, and most experienced Patriots, it was natural for the executive to turn his Thoughts to a Gentleman personally known to him and whose truly American Sentiments and Principls would bear the Strickest Scrutiny.”

7Elizabeth Ellery Dana’s reply, dated 19 June, states that her husband could not accept the appointment owing to “his nervous complaints.” She worried that the rigors of negotiation might “incapacitate” him “from aiding the Mission” and could possibly “render him useless to the public and his family” (Adams Papers). In a letter to Francis Dana dated [June], AA offered assurances that the president was not upset with his refusal of the appointment, as JA “had his doubts with respect to your acceptance … knowing Your suffrings at sea & the present delicate State of your Health” (Dft, Adams Papers).

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